Time Flies

Is it just me or did this course fly by? I can’t believe this is my final blog for Intro to Social Media. I’ve known for awhile now that I want a career in the social media field, but this class has made me much more excited for it. I’ve learned so much over the span of two months, and I can’t wait to take the other courses.

I don’t know about you guys, but that personal branding assignment was very difficult for me. I had never really given too much thought about who I was, and what I had to offer. That assignment really opened my eyes, and taught me a lot about myself. I feel much more confident about my skills and passions. It has inspired me to want to utilize my social media platforms more effectively.

Until this course I had never blogged before. Well, that’s kind of a lie. I do have a Tumblr account, but I only post/re-blog pictures. I’ve been enjoying writing about different topics and things i’m passionate about. I think i’m starting to find my own voice, and I’ve been strongly considering starting my own blog.

The case study assignment really got me excited to work in the social media field. I did a lot of research on different brands and campaigns and really took the question “what would I do differently” seriously. It might sound cheesy, but I got really excited when I started thinking about what I would change, or how I think a company could improve their efforts. The material we learned over the past couple of months opened my eyes to all the positive and negative ways to approach social media from a business standpoint. It’s interesting to see all the ways that companies can succeed and fail on social media. I feel like I’ve learned so much already, but i’m excited to continue learning, and to one day apply what I know to my career.

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Lazy Activism

Kony 2012

Does anyone remember Kony 2012? The video that came out in March of 2012 is considered the most viral video ever made. I was in university when that documentary went viral and I remember how upset everyone was and how people wanted to take immediate action. The project’s website asked online users to create even more awareness by “painting the town”. The event was planned for April 20, 2012. The site sold a bunch of stickers and posters for people to buy to put all around their towns and cities on the night of the 20th. I remember seeing so many Facebook groups for Toronto, and even my own town; Whitby. People were discussing meeting places, and areas to cover. This event was all anyone was talking about. I remember talking to my friends about it, and wanting to participate, however when the 20th rolled around we did nothing. The next morning everyone around the world was expecting to wake up to Kony 2012 posters on every street corner, however that was not the case. Globally, the night was a flop. Hardly anyone turned out, considering the vast amount of people affected by the video.

Why is that? I think that Kony 2012 is just one of many examples of lazy activism.

“Slactivism”

Social media has given us the opportunity to globally communicate, and in this case, create awareness about growing problems. There is not doubt that this is an amazing thing. Without social media, not as many people would’ve become aware of issues like Joseph Kony and the invisible children. However, it allows people to feel like activists when they are simply pressing a “like” button, or retweeting something. Social media has given the opportunity for people to feel like they are making a difference by doing the bare minimum. This isn’t to say that people don’t make a difference on social media. I know there is a lot of good that comes from social media, like raising awareness and money. However, I think it’s a way for people to say they did something without actually going out in the real world and doing it. Technology stands in for us in the realm of action. In a lot of cases the communicative message prevents actual action. Kony 2012 required no sustained involvement.

I’ve noticed this type of activism a lot on Tumblr. Tumblr is known for it’s very accepting and inviting community. Users shed light on a lot of very important issues such as racism, homophobia, and gender identity. However, all this positive discussion and awareness has a lot of negativity embedded in it. I read a lot of the comments on the pictures people post about these topics. People argue that if you “like” those pictures as opposed to “re-blogging” them, then you are not helping the cause. A lot of these users are very passionate and opinionated and a lot of times they are creating awareness, but it seems like a lot of yelling and arguing for the most part. I think Tumblr is an outlet for people to have important discussions about inequality, however, they seem to just stick to that outlet. By posting pictures and articles, they think they are making a difference, and in some cases, they might be, but there is a big difference between blogging about wanting to make a difference and going out and actually making a difference. Tubmlr is like it’s own world of activism that has its own rules that users should abide by, like re-blogging instead of liking. It’s great that there are so many passionate people out there that want to see change in the world, but it would be better if they all went out there and turned their words into actions.

 

Why does “slactavism” exist? Is it because it makes people feel better about themselves, or make them feel they are actually making a difference? What do you guys think?

Social Media and Branding

The personal branding assignment really got me thinking of an event I stumbled up on Facebook a few weeks ago. A friend of mine sent me a Facebook invitation to an event being hosted by local shops in my area called “Shop Late, Shop Local”. I live in Whitby, Ontario which is about 45 minutes east of Toronto. Downtown Whitby is rather small, and it spans over one main intersection. Whenever I go downtown I visit the same store every time. I had never really browsed any of the other stores because I had never heard of them. No one I knew shopped there and I was used to my one store. When I got the Facebook Invitation, it said a bunch of stores (including the usual one I go to) were kicking off the holiday season by staying open late for one night and offering lots of great deals. I had only heard of a couple of stores, which I was confused by because downtown Whitby is very small. The pictures on the event page were very intriguing and showed a lot of products that were exactly my taste. Another thing I noticed was the amount of people interested in attending the event, it was well over 300. It was a very high number (for Whitby), but I didn’t think that many people would actually show up.

The night of the event, I went downtown with my friend to check out all the shops. I’ve lived in Whitby my whole life, and I have never seen the downtown area that busy before. There were crowds of people walking up and down the streets. All the stores were packed with people and there were massive lineups at the registers. I went into the stores I had never heard of before and found that they did indeed have lots of cool and interesting stuff.

I thought it was very interesting to see the turnout for this event from one Facebook group. If my friend didn’t notify me of the event, I would probably still be shopping solely at that one store. I think it’s great that local shops in my area are hopping on the social media bandwagon and getting their name out there. It really showcases the power of social media in building awareness for different stores and brands, even in small areas.

Slang and Social Media

Language is constantly changing and developing. There are many rules to abide by but there are also ambiguities such as slang. Just like language, slang is continuously growing, and with the rise of social media it has become even more pervasive. Social media makes it easier and quicker for people to communicate so it only makes sense that language follows suit.

For myself (and most people I know), internet slang began on MSN. There wasn’t much, but phrases like “brb”, “g2g”, or “ttyl” were used in everyday online conversation. Today, many of those abbreviations aren’t used anymore because social media has paved the way for new and improved slang. MSN only allowed a one-on-one form of communication. Social media allows you to talk to as many people as you want, allowing new words and sayings to spread more quickly.

The rise of twitter lead to a significant shift in terms of language. The limited characters available per tweet, and the development of the hashtag established new abbreviated slang and sayings. Famous hashtags such as #tbt, #mcm, and #sorrynotsorry, continue to thrive across all social media platforms. These different hashtags and even the term itself can be heard in everyday conversations. There are even new words being produced like the term “selfie”. This is the act of taking a photo of yourself and posting it on social media. The word “friend” which is traditionally a noun, is now more frequently used as a verb, i.e. to friend someone on Facebook. Language is constantly evolving, and with social media it’s happening at more rapid rate. Is this change in language a positive or negative thing?

I personally think that these new words and phrases are great. It’s very entertaining and it’s fun to participate in. There are many people who aren’t on board with all this new slang. It’s deemed as a “young people thing” and is not taken very seriously. However, I think that it is a form of originality and should be admired. We’re taught to think critically, but we’re also taught to be creative. Creativity spans across all aspects of work and life, so why not language?

Social Media Side Effects

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through Netflix, and I stumbled upon a show called Black Mirror. The first episode was so intriguing I managed to binge watch the whole season in one weekend. The show is an anthology series that illustrates the uneasiness and sometimes negative effects of technology. I felt uncomfortable at times while watching this show because some of the themes seemed scarily relevant to today’s technological world. It really makes you think about what the future holds. There are two episodes that I found particularly interesting, Nosedive and Shut Up and Dance. I felt that these episodes were a depiction of the scary side effects of social media and technology in today’s world.

Nosedive takes place in the not-so-distant future where the act of “liking” on social media extends to everyday life. People walk around glued to their phones and every interaction with another person results in a rating. These ratings divide people into a class like system. People with higher ratings are treated better than people with lower ratings. For example, the main character, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, arrives at the airport to find out that her flight has been cancelled and that her rating isn’t high enough to get her onto another available flight. Howard begins to raise her voice in disagreement and makes a scene which causes the people around her to give her poor ratings. Throughout the whole episode she tries very hard to please everyone and put on a fake, happy front to get positive ratings. The one time she acts honestly and says what’s on her mind she gets reprimanded for it. I think this is very relevant to social media today. People are constantly attached to their phones. I know I fall victim to this all the time. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do Is check Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. When I see my phone light up with a notification, my first instinct is to immediately check it. On Instagram, people carefully choose the right photo, filter and caption in hopes of receiving positive feedback from followers. If you post something controversial, there is the possibility of negative feedback and the loss of followers. Social media allows people to show the snippets of their lives that (they think) are pleasing to everyone else, and to gain some sort of approval.  It’s also easy to make judgements based on the number of followers someone has. For instance, if you’re looking for a specific account to follow (food, fashion, humour etc.), you’re more likely to follow the accounts with the most followers. If an Instagram or Twitter account has few followers, it’s easy to negatively critique it.

Shut Up and Dance takes place in the present day and tells the story of a chain of people being blackmailed by am unknown group of hackers. These hackers dig up dirt on everyone through difference platforms like e-mail, and in the case of the main character, webcam. The hackers make demands via text and can track their every move via GPS.  If the demands are not met, they threaten to reveal their secrets. Kenny, the main character, is sent on a wild goose chase involving a bank robbery, and a duel between another man being tormented by the hackers. If he does not abide by the rules, some unforgivable acts caught through his webcam will be revealed to everyone online. This episode is a very plausible depiction of the dark side of technology that we see today. Hackers do exist and have the ability to seize control of computers. For example, when the website Ashley Madison was hacked, many of its members were blackmailed by demanding compensation or their spouses would be informed of their infidelity. It’s also common to hear about celebrities Twitter accounts being hacked. When Katy Perry’s account was compromised, hackers posted offensive, racist tweets. A lot of times hackers post spam, but sometimes they can post things detrimental to someone’s reputation.

Social Media, and technology itself has brought so many positive things to the world. That is why it’s easy to overlook the negative aspects of it. Many people get so caught up in having the most likes and the most followers, that it becomes hard to know what’s authentic about a person. When it comes to privacy, it’s common to hear about company websites or celebrity social media accounts being compromised. However there are many cases of ordinary people getting hacked everyday, it just doesn’t make national news. Social media is something we can appreciate but we should also take caution with it. Even though Black Mirror is a fictional show, it was a bit of a rude awakening for me. There is some honesty and reality behind these episodes that reflect today’s society.

There is no WiFi in the forest, but you will find a better connection

In all my social media experience, I never considered connecting with people outside of my friends and family. The idea of reaching out to strangers and participating in discussions about different interests and views never appealed to me. However, this all changed last summer when I was preparing for my first trip to the Electric Forest music and arts 6005620-r1-03-22afestival. For those of you who are unaware of this festival, it’s in Rothbury Michigan and it takes place over a four-day period in June. A wide range of artists come to perform their music on one of the festivals many stages. Even more compelling than the music, is the forest itself. Some would say the real experience begins after the music is finished and the sun is long gone. The forest turns into an artistic nirvana, filled with vibrant lights, and mind blowing art installations. Characters meander in extravagant costumes and makeup which makes the experience that much more fascinating.

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This photo is courtesy of http://www.electricforestfestival.com

My friends are veterans of the festival as most of them have been attending since its very first year. Why it took me so long to go I’ll never know. Hearing stories and looking at photos, were no longer enough for me; I needed to experience it for myself. Every story I heard about Electric Forest had a common theme; a sense of community. This shared experience encompasses the festival itself and continues long after it’s over. There are various Reddit threads dedicated to all things Electric Forest. The day before the festival, avid followers meet at a Wal-Mart parking lot roughly 20 minutes from the festival grounds. Cars and trucks from all over the country fill up the parking spaces for a huge pre-Forest celebration. Through Reddit, I learned many festival goers extend camping invitations to those travelling alone or in smaller groups, ensuring everyone feels a part of the Electric Forest family. Strangers become friends all because of this remarkable shared experience. As we walked around the parking lot, we exchanged smiles and greetings of “Happy Forest” with all the eager attendees. The vibe was infectious. What amazed me the most was that hundreds of people from all over the country arrived at this Wal-Mart parking lot (in the middle of nowhere) from one social media platform.  You can only imagine the atmosphere inside the actual festival.  A reinvented Woodstock-like vibe flows through the forest and people can simply be themselves with no fear of judgment.  Everyone is passionate about the music and the idea of coming together and having a shared experience. The thing I love most, is that this beautiful community, blossomed from a single music festival into an open-ended, virtual experience; all powered by social media.

Today I still find myself reading through Reddit threads about previous Forest years and everyone’s opinions on what’s to come. I’m amazed at how so many people make such a conscious effort to stay connected. My views and expectations regarding communicating and participating in the online world have changed significantly. There are so many online communities to participate in but it’s incredible to see one that extends to the real world too. Social Media is such a powerful tool, and it can bring people together on and off the screen.

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